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PECHS Scores Are Eyed

PRINCE EDWARD – The numbers are only preliminary, but the County's high school registered improvement in several tested areas.

“…When you look at this, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic…in some of our results,” High School Principal Craig Reed reported at the June school board meeting.

Overall, already high reading SOL results were unchanged-scoring 87 percent again; but math increased from 76 percent to 90 percent and science jumped from 74 to 84 percent.

The biggest challenge that remains, however, is in the area of history, where the performance fell from 86 percent to 69 percent-a drop off of 17 percent.

Reed explained that there has been a change in the test-World History I, World History II and Virginia U.S. History. He noted that talking to some other principals in some other areas that they're reporting some similar drops in achievement for this test.

Internal Lead Partner Michelle Hairston added that they want to go against the norm.

“As an assistant principal,” Reed also commented, “one of the things that I've always observed – not just here, but in previous settings – is that…because of the test, history is taught on a very knowledge and comprehension level. The test that we had this year, calls for something different. It called for more critical thought and more analysis.”

He assessed that it's going to call for them to “change how we teach history and ask for more of that critical thought, which is what we were talking about at the beginning of the year.”

Paul Cosway, a consultant with Cambridge Education assisting in the high school's turnaround effort, noted that students have been in school going through remediation trying to get those who narrowly missed through.

Still, the scores rose in many areas. Among other preliminary results, Algebra I scores improved from 84 to 96.1 percent; Algebra II scores improved from 74 to 94.1 percent; geometry scores rose from 73 to 82.7 percent; earth science scores improved from 70 to 81 percent; biology scores increased from 75 to 84 percent; and chemistry scores increased from 81 to 92.4 percent.

Federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) guidelines-in addition to mandating performance of students as a whole-also mandates performance of subgroups.

Preliminary African American achievement scores in reading dipped only .8 percent, from 82 to 81.2 percent. Math scores rose from 68 percent to 85.3 percent and science scores rose from 66 percent to 73.6 percent. History scores, mirroring the division as a whole, also fell-from 78 percent last year to 56.7 percent, or a fall of 21.3 percent.

“…The goal of AYP and the goal for us is to make sure that we have as many students pass as possible,” Reed highlighted.

Scores of those determined to be economically disadvantaged rose in reading from 70 to 81 percent passing, went from 70 to 89 percent in math, and 67 to 75 percent in science. History scores fell from 79 to 60 percent.

Scores of special education students fell eight percent in reading, from 63 to 55 percent, rose 13 percent in math (from 59 to 72 percent) and rose nine percent in science (from 50 to 59 percent). History scores fell 37 percent, from 85 to 48 percent.

Director of Accountability and Research Dr. Roy Echeverria noted that they are not necessarily comparing apples to apples at this point. AYP scores from last year were adjusted and this year does not include adjustments. He also cited that they are still doing some testing of a few students, though he did not think it would make a huge difference. Also included in the analysis were some of the students that are re-testing and the state does not count those scores every time they take the test.
<br />Still, he said, he does not expect significant change.

While there were some increases in some areas, Reed offered that it's something they're going to have to focus on.

“…All of this provides an outlook of not only of what we've done this year, but what we need to do…for the following year-what we need to plan for in the following year,” Reed said.

Transformation Plan Update

Reed also detailed an updated transformation plan for the coming school year.

“Not only will it build on the successes that we've had this year, but it's gonna focus on systems so that everyone has a clear idea of what they're supposed to do next year,” he said. “That way, regardless of whether Craig Reed or a Dan Soderholm or a Cynthia Johnson is in the Principal's chair, regardless of what happens…everyone will have a clear idea of what is supposed to be done and teachers will have a clear understanding of how the school is supposed to operate and so will the students.”

The district staff, principal and lead turnaround partners worked on the framework for the transformation, Reed detailed.

The plan aims to guide the work for the next 12 months, enable stakeholders to understand the direction and the reasons why, provide ways of measuring progress, and sets firm dates by which actions should be completed.

Six key areas where improvements are needed were addressed in the outline. It includes excellence in teaching, a safe learning environment, parent and community involvement, increased academic achievement, positive school environment, and building leadership capacity.

Cosway noted that, since January, they have looked at the subject areas that were weakest in the SOLs last year and concentrated work in those departments.

English, he cited as an example, didn't see much attention because it was already a high performing department. They looked at Algebra I, Algebra II and science.

“We looked at the ones that were low performing last year and we concentrated our efforts on improving those,” Cosway said.

The structure that they've been using, he would also cite, to develop and improve teaching instruction and increase the accountability have worked.

“And that's very encouraging because that means we can now apply those to other areas like these and hope that they will also improve,” Cosway said.

The plan, as far as increasing academic achievement, factors continued use of benchmark scores to monitor the effectiveness of instruction, aims to have responsive instruction-so that a student not successful on benchmark tests has some sort of remediation. Plans are in the works to have systems of intervention in place to assist ninth graders. Reed cited that they are going to try to focus on some students coming from the middle school that they know are going to have some difficulty. He detailed they have identified about 32 students “and we want to make sure that we have things in place to support those students next year.” Reed also said he wants to see ninth graders when they graduate to have some sort of need to give back to whatever community they live in.

Reed would go on to offer that AYP is a target that they can reach.

“And I believe that we have the obligation to try everything and use…all of our resources to reach that…to make sure that all of our students are successful at Prince Edward County High School,” he said.

School Board Chairman Russell Dove said at the end of the presentation that he was “encouraged” by the progress, but also added that he was encouraged that they seem to be putting together some concrete plans to increase the momentum.

Other Highlights

Reed cited that the high school won “the stay in the game” award, which means that no student athlete or coach was ejected from the game; the drama team won the Southside District championship; has had success in writing competitions; won third in the state in the Wachovia Cup academic competitions which includes the Year Book, creative writing, drama, debate, forensics, newspaper, the school's magazine.

The girls soccer team won the Southside District championship, Reed also cited, and they had two District coaches of the year-Coach Bruce Bogese in volleyball and Coach Jason Crabtree in girls soccer.